This new tanguero told me with some enthusiasm about a workshop he had recently attended at his local tango school. The workshop was taught by a couple of visiting artists from Argentina. I didn’t recognize their names, but later I looked them up on Youtube, and saw that they were indeed very beautiful dancers!
My virtual client described a figure they taught. It was actually a sequence, comprised of a few elements that I would consider advanced-level movements! Based on my experience of many years, each of those elements would have taken most intermediate-level students several weeks of practice to execute and lead effectively, and here were several such movements, combined into a one sequence and being taught in one afternoon. In addition, the sequence could not be safely danced in a milonga unless the man leading were a skilled and sophisticated navigator, who could trim down the space it occupied, and keep the lady’s free foot on the floor.
The level of the participants in this class was not advanced. Some of the women could hardly keep their balance and leaned on my client when they practiced the sequence together. And he could do parts of it without losing his own balance only some of the time, so you can imagine the challenge he faced when some of his partners leaned on him!
I confess that hearing about this stimulating workshop adventure with the visiting tango professionals got me “mad”. Not angry, really, but perplexed and disturbed. I am wondering why such exquisite dancers would teach a sequence that is ultra-challenging for the participants in the class, rather than helping them to deepen their understanding of the basics they need to dance comfortably and harmoniously in milongas. Being able to do that well enough that they can stop struggling and start communicating more deeply with their partners is what most tango people crave!
By the way, it’s not only beginners and advanced beginners who are frustrated with their own performance on the dance floor. Many intermediate-level tango men and women who have taken weekly classes and monthly workshops for several years tell me of their struggles. I suspect it's because they're being taught challenging and fun figures, a new one each week (often with a variation or two), without ever being taught and drilled in the most essential tango skills and concepts.
I applaud my new virtual client for rising to the challenge of tackling these structures and having fun with the challenge, in spite of the frustrations that came from his being thrown in over his head! How could he have known it was not the most suitable material for him? It was not his fault if when he left the workshop he was no better prepared to dance comfortably in milongas than he was the day before.
It seems that that many tango instructors teach lots of "moves", because they want to "give the people what they want". Some teachers are afraid of losing students whom they perceive as wanting to be active in a tango class and not having the patience to slow down. Because, as we explored in my last 3 articles entitled "What are you afraid of?", slowing down can be scary! (The series begins with this article.)
I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments area below!